Tuesday, 4 December 2012
To ask the Minister for Environment, Community and Local Government if he will revisit the issue of restrictions on slurry spreading times, taking account of the implementation method in other jurisdictions, with a view to easing the difficulties that the current calendar based system is causing for farmers; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [53802/12]
Set closed periods for the spreading of fertilisers, including slurry, is a requirement of the Nitrates Directive and is mandatory. The purpose of closed periods is to protect ground and surface water bodies, including drinking water sources, by prohibiting the application of fertilisers when such application poses an unacceptable risk to water courses. The closed periods in Ireland were decided following an extensive consultation and were discussed with farming bodies and the European Commission at the time.
Good agricultural practice involves the application of fertilisers as early as practicable in the growing season in order to maximise the uptake of nutrients and to minimise pollution to water. In this regard, the application of fertilisers in the months of November and December is not considered good farming practice and this has been the case long before the Nitrates Directive.
Closed periods for the spreading of fertilisers are part of Ireland's Nitrates Action Programme. The regulations underpinning the programme were subject to a comprehensive review in 2010. Expert opinion was that the closed periods should remain unchanged in the programme. The action programme is due to be reviewed for a second time in 2013 and will be subject to full public consultation.